Cell phones banned for commercial drivers - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Cell phones banned for commercial drivers

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

A new federal law went into effect Tuesday banning commercial truck drivers from using their cell phones while on the road.

Texting while driving is already illegal in most states, but this law goes even further to any use of hand-held phones.

Jay Dent is learning a new trade -how to drive a semi-truck at Georgia Driving Academy in Columbus.

"You not only have a steering wheel you have to mess with, you also have a gear shift.  You've got turn signals.  You've got a clutch pedal.  You've got a brake pedal, fuel, mirrors you've got to look in all the time," said Dent.

However, there is one thing he and about four million other commercial drivers in the country will not be doing: using their cell phones.

Tuesday was the first day for the federal law banning truck and bus drivers from using hand-held devices while behind the wheel.

"It pretty much means hands-free.  So, you're going to have to have a Bluetooth or some other mechanism to communicate without actually having to make multiple key entries," said Brad Barber, Georgia Driving Academy's School Director.

Barber says curriculum now includes the new regulations.  He also says the fines drivers could face if they violate the law can add up.  Drivers could be fined up to $2,750 for each offense and could lose their license after multiple offenses.  If a company allows drivers to violate the new law, it could cost up to $11,000 for each penalty.

"I think it's something that's going to strengthen the safety of the truck driver and the industry itself.  Anything you can do to reduce accidents and potentially fatalities are a positive goal," said Barber.

Drivers can also be charged for reaching for their phone if it causes them to no longer be in a seated driving position.

Dent says he has no problem with the law and hopes it cuts down on distracted driving.

They jeopardize not only themselves, but they jeopardize everybody else out here whenever they are talking and texting on the phone when driving," said Dent.

Barber says there are already built in computers in some trucks that can read text messages to drivers.

He says, now, you can expect to see a push for a law for technology like this to be placed in all commercial trucks.

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